Give P. a chance
In case you missed one of the news items last week, George P. Bush filed paperwork with the Texas Ethics Commission to run for office, something many people expected might happen but weren’t sure when. Based on comments from Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who’s probably going to be seeking the office of Lt. Governor in 2014, Bush seems to be eyeing the Land Commissioner office. While some might wonder why the coverage in many of the state papers about the initial filing, you have to remember he comes from a very high profile political family that has yielded two presidents and two governors (W did both). He’s also considered the future of the Republican Party of Texas if you take into account the demographics of Texas. But before he’s even announced a campaign or even made one public statement, people are already voting against him and discrediting him. Seeing this I have to ask if we’ve lost the concepts of civic engagement somewhere along the line.
Before we go too far, remember that I’m a Democrat and espouse to the key principles of the Texas Democratic Party as outlined in its platform. I may not agree with every single thing in the platform but, when compared with the platform of the Republican Party of Texas, there’s more that I agree with than disagree with. But, even though I’m a Democrat, you’ll never catch me voting straight ticket. I evaluate every candidate individually to see if they are qualified for office and deserving of my vote. I vote for more Democrats than Republicans but I do split my ticket. I also find many Democrats I respect do the same.
So, before I cast judgment on George P. I want to hear which office he seeks and what his ideas are. Then I can make a decision about whether to support him or oppose him. But we’re about a year away from that even happening. Most likely, if he’s filing now, he’s targeting the 2014 race and will probably be surveying the landscape before making a decision. This isn’t his first political rodeo. He’s already cut political teeth by co-founding the Hispanic Republicans of Texas, a PAC that represents the new Latino future of the Republican Party. Over the past three years, the group has given over $300, 000 to Hispanic Republican candidates.
Bush’s entry not only is newsworthy based on his political genes. It also comes at a time when Republicans are waking up to the fact that if they plan to remain viable in the political conversation they need to properly address issues important to Latinos such as immigration, citizenship, education, and health care access. Political strategists and party leaders on both sides realize the potential of capturing that vote when it turns out. In the case of Democrats, it’s a matter of focusing on the key advantages provided by Democratic office holders in fighting for those issues. In the case of Republicans, it’s changing the conversation within the party to become more relevant to Latinos and having positive conversations on the issues.
The biggest problem for both is increasing turnout in the community in Texas, which typically lags the nation. It’s difficult to understand why that turnout lags and what the key factors are that prevent seeing stronger numbers. However, as one political strategist said Thursday, the sleeping giant will awaken only when someone wakes it up. The question is which party will do that.
Many have speculated that Texas will eventually turn purple by the end of the decade. However, as party leaders and political pundits look at the numbers, that purple tint may not occur until the next decade, further delaying Democrats recovering statewide offices in what many have termed the longest drought of absence in the nation. Increasing voter turnout will bring that date back into this decade and could see significant gains in 2018. Looking at 2014 you might see one statewide office won by a Democrat but no more than that. Many have speculated Mayor Julian Castro should make a run for governor in 2014 but personally I don’t see the handwriting on the wall for that.
What could delay any gains Texas Democrats could have in painting Texas purple would be a Republican Party that experiences a transformation and embraces Latino issues. Everyone agrees that securing our borders is critical. But after that, the two parties differ on positions. Remember those two platforms I listed? Let’s look at some differences.
In the Democrat’s platform you find the following position “reform the Immigration Nationality Act to address the millions of workers that are in our country illegally by establishing a path to bring them out of the shadows of the underground economy, thus preventing unscrupulous businesses from taking advantage of their indentured services that is detrimental to legitimate businesses and to American workers that play by the rules.”
However, in the Republican platform you find no such position addressing the issue. Instead, you find recognition of the problem with the following statements “Mass deportation of these individuals would neither be equitable nor practical; while blanket amnesty, as occurred with the Simpson-Mazzoli Act of 1986, would only encourage future violations of the law. We seek common ground to develop and advance a conservative, market- and law-based approach to our nation’s immigration issues.” The platform then addresses things like clarification of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment and modernizing the social security card.
You see the differences in positions. What’s interesting is that this kind of language is mild compared to what you hear by most Republicans. When asked whether the Texas legislature should address the instate tuition issue regarding undocumented immigrants, most feel that position should be removed, making it more of a challenge for those students to attend college in Texas.
So, the entry of someone like George P. into the landscape does drive a new conversation in Texas. Looking at the leadership of the Hispanic Republicans of Texas you’ll find more moderate Republicans than anyone. My guess is these people would leverage Bush’s entry to politics as an opportunity to start those conversations of transformation. If those conversations are thwarted by hardcore conservatives like the tea party, transformation will be a good four years away. If they are embraced, then Texas Republicans could continue to be a strong force in Texas.
Regardless, before we cast George P. Bush out as a candidate, let’s at least do our civic duty and hear what he has to say.